Going on the offensive on the dalit student’s suicide case in Hyderabad, Congress today demanded that HRD Minister Smriti Irani should be removed along with Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, against whom a FIR has been lodged.
Party spokesperson Kumari Selja told reporters here that both Irani and Dattatreya should resign or else Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take action against the two by sacking them.
She said that the HRD Minister has “misguided” the whole country as she had written a number of letters on the issue and that Dattatreya was “against dalit students in order to promote ABVP”.
“There is much more than what meets the eye. The Prime Minister must speak out on the matter and take action against the ministers,” she said as Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi left Delhi to visit Hyderabad Central University (HCU) to meet the students after a dalit scholar allegedly committed suicide sparking massive protests.
“The Prime Minister should break his silence. This is not the first time that BJP ministers have worked against the interest of the dalits. There are several others who have spoken ill of the dalits. And hence, the entire BJP, the Prime Minister are in the docks,” Selja said.
The body of the dalit research scholar was found hanging in the varsity’s hostel room, which sparked massive protests.
Dattatreya and the university Vice Chancellor were yesterday named in the FIR over the alleged suicide of the student.
The issue took a political turn with allegations that the extreme action was a result of discrimination against dalit students at the behest of Dattatreya, who had written a letter to Irani, seeking action against their “anti-national acts”.
The deceased student, Rohit Vemula, was among the five research scholars who were suspended by the university in August last year and also one of the accused in a case of assault on a student leader. They were also kept out of the hostel.
Selja said that facts available in the public domain “unequivocally establish” that Dattatreya, BJP MLA Ramachandra Rao and ABVP activists were “squarely responsible for deliberately orchestrating circumstances leading to tragic suicide of Vemula”.
“This horrific incident is part of the Modi government’s unabated agenda to undermine the rights of the deprived and underprivileged, particularly the Scheduled Castes and other backward classes, which has manifested itself in last 19 months,” she said.
The alleged suicide of the 25-year-old dalit was not an “isolated incident but a sinister culmination of social boycott of dalits in the university campus and passing of derogatory remarks against dalits by ABVP activists,” she said.
“This seething contempt against the dalit community was done with the active abetment of the university authorities,” she said.
Selja said that while the five dalit Ph.D. research scholars of the university were suspended in August last year, a probe by ‘Proctorial Board’ of the varsity had given a clean chit to Rohit and his colleagues.
“Despite a clean chit, they were hounded, persecuted and humiliated at the instance of Dattatreya, the BJP MLA and ABVP activists, which finally led to them being debarred from using the campus and being evicted from hostel premises.
“Even the letter dated 18th December, 2015 calling upon the vice chancellor and placing facts of systematic dalit persecution fell on deaf ears. Further information in public domain now shockingly suggests that even the HRD Ministry wrote four letters to the university demanding action against the five dalit Ph.D. research scholars,” she said.
Selja said that Congress once again condemns the “anti-dalit mindset” of BJP-RSS and demands immediate sacking of Dattatreya as also an inquiry through a sitting high court judge into the entire sordid episode examining the role of the Union minister, the MLA, ABVP activists, the vice-chancellor as also the HRD Ministry.
“The Modi government has become a habitual offender in trampling upon the rights of the dalits and the poor. Be it the statement of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat calling for a review of reservation or shameless comment passed by Union Minister V K Singh comparing dalit children to dogs, a deep rooted prejudice is writ large,” she said.
Selja said, “This anti-dalit mindset of the Modi government has extended to widespread cuts in welfare schemes for Scheduled Castes. In Union Budget 2015-16 alone, the Modi government imposed a cut of Rs 19,734 crore in Scheduled Caste Sub Plan reducing it from Rs 50,548 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 30,850 crore in 2015-16.
“Even, funds in the critical ‘Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme’ for SC/ST have been reduced by Rs 305.78 crore in 2015-16,” she added.